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Pet Abuse and Family Violence

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What can we learn from abused pets?

Abuse affects us all, even those most loved and loyal family member, our pets. In a family that lives with abuse, our pets. like our children are most vulnerable to being beaten and abused. Women’s refuge centres across the city compiled examples of the correlation between animal cruelty and family violence after a study released last month that investigated the issue in New Zealand for the first time.

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Pet abuse in violent homes probed

Olivia Carville

WARNING SIGNS: A dog showing evidence of slash wounds. A study has linked similar wounds to domestic-violence situations

A dog decapitated in front of children, a litter of kittens hurled against a wall and a cat held in the air while its legs were broken one by one are Christchurch examples of the link between pet abuse and family violence.

Women’s refuge centres across the city compiled examples of the correlation between animal cruelty and family violence after a study released last month that investigated the issue in New Zealand for the first time.

The Pets as Pawns study was a Women’s Refuge-SPCA project that showed violence towards animals was often used as a way for abusive men to maintain control over their families.

Dr Michael Roguski surveyed more than 200 Women’s Refuge clients and found 54 per cent said a family member or partner had threatened to kill their pets.

One-third of respondents had a pet injured or killed during a relationship, and much of the abuse was witnessed by children.

Christchurch was not included in the survey because Roguski did not want to overburden the city’s swamped refuge centres after the earthquakes.

He had no doubt the same violence occurred in Christchurch, and the city’s refuge centres have confirmed his belief.

Christchurch Women’s Refuge spokeswoman Julie McCloy said 70 per cent of clients in rural Canterbury feared for their pets, and 30 per cent held the same concerns in the city.

All of the case workers had clients reluctant to leave violent relationships because they feared their pets would be killed if left to the mercy of their partner.

“Abusing animals is another form of power and control that is used to manipulate women and torture them,” McCloy said.

“We are aware of women and children staying in unsafe situations because they wanted to look after their animals.”

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